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Shake Shack, the gourmet hamburger restaurant that started out as a kind of hot dog cart in a New York City park and has grown into a 63-unit chain with locations as far away as London, Dubai, Istanbul and Las Vegas, is scheduled to begin trading publicly on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) today ... with a valuation of almost three-quarters of a billion dollars.

As the New York Times writes, "The success of Mr. Meyer’s chain stands in stark contrast to McDonald’s, the global behemoth suffering from its worst slump in more than a decade. The golden-arched restaurant chain announced a change in leadership this week facing sagging sales and a flat stock price, as it struggles to adjust its well-worn menu for modern tastes.

"Mr. Meyer, 56, and his team have had no such trouble. Shake Shack has resonated with consumers who grew up on fast food but are both wary and weary of it. Burgers have been enjoying a makeover that began in the late 1990s, as younger eaters have flocked to a new generation of burger chains like Shake Shack, Five Guys and Smashburger."

The Times adds: "Shake Shack has even helped transform Pat LaFrieda, which manufactures the company’s secret burger blend, from a local artisanal butcher into a nationally lauded purveyor of quality beef. But Shake Shack’s ambitious expansion plans — the chain plans to open at least 10 company-owned restaurants in the United States each fiscal year — may threaten the high level of hospitality the company is known for."
KC's View:
I anticipate that the Shake Shack folks probably will do a pretty good job of maintaining their culture as the company expands, though it almost certainly will get harder as the company gets bigger. But if they hire right, and think of it as "casting roles," I don't see any reason why, at least for the foreseeable future, Shake Shack can maintain its mojo.

There happens to be a Shake Shack a couple of towns away from me, in Westport, Connecticut ... and it is wonderful. And when a space that seemed appropriate for a Shake Shack became available a lot closer, I can't tell you how many people said it would be perfect. The customers aren't just customers. They're advocates. That's a huge differential advantage.